Most of us are familiar with the term circadian rhythm or clock when it comes to jet lag (the result of crossing several time zones in a few hours). We know it’s difficult to sleep or get into the rhythm of life’s daily routines that we had experienced before the flight.
The word circadian is medically defined as the variation of biological functions in a 24 hour time span. The body’s organs and systems get used to functioning at different times of the day and the body conforms by adapting to that routine, creating its own circadian clock.
A disruption not only impairs normal functioning, but the immune system as well.
It appears the primary lynch pin for the circadian clock is sleep. Jet lag, medically defined as Rapid Time Zone Change Syndrome is one. It confuses one’s circadian clock, making it difficult to sleep and function normally for awhile.
Other circadian syndromes and disorders
Delayed Sleep Syndrome: Caught up with the habit of staying up late while being forced to get up early is the hallmark of this clock disrupter. Poor daytime function and more sleeplessness are the results.
Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome: This is pretty much the opposite. One decides to stay up later for evening work or events with the knowledge that his/her day will start later.
But the result is waking up spontaneously too early, then getting sleepy too early in the evening after functioning normally during the day. This occurs mostly with older people whose circadian clocks are normally set at early to bed – early to rise.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder: After some time on a late shift, one’s circadian clock will set to that pattern. But if that work demands shift changes every so often, the inconsistencies will leave their mark, causing that individual some moments of insomnia and sleepiness when required to be awake.
Non 24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder: Similar to the previous disorder. But more a function of one’s own restlessness or moments of insomnia with an unsteady awake schedule. An example would be differently scheduled classes interspersed with short work periods scheduled around those classes.
How these sleep syndromes and disorders directly affect the immune system
Circadian clock disruptions have been considered a problem for immune systems for some time, according to Dr Akhilesh Reddy, a circadian researcher at the University of Cambridge.
Dr. Reddy acclaimed recent research at Yale University’s Medical School as the first to disclose why and how circadian clock disruptions affect the immune system. Professor Erol Fiking and the Yale team analyzed mice with a protein called toll-like receptor nine (TLR9), which spots DNA from bacteria and viruses to initiate an immune response.
They discovered there was circadian timing involved with this protein’s activity, making one more susceptible to infection when the TLR9 activity was low within the body’s circadian rhythm.
The report waxed on how this research could lead to new pharmaceuticals to meddle with nature. That’s how the media justifies funded research that adds more incentive for Big Pharma to create more drugs for more syndromes and disorders.
A couple of years ago, a study at Mt. Sinai hospital in Miami Beach observed that men diagnosed with HIV who slept through the five known sleep stages of sleep did better than men whose sleep stages were disrupted, forcing them to miss the deepest stages of sleep. Read about that study here (Learn All About Sleep and Its Connection with Your Immune System (Opinion)).
Many who get sufficient hours don’t get through all five stages of sleep. This means many are still vulnerable to infection regardless of their commitment to proper sleep hours. It would be interesting to see a study done on the circadian disruptions during a hospital stay considering the fact that particular environment is home to infectious super bugs.
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